Posts Tagged ‘data center trust’

Pop-up retail, meet pop-up office

by Marc Watley on January 31, 2011

Gap did it next to their flagship 5th Avenue location in New York.  Method did it in San Francisco’s Union Square shopping district. (Method, those funny teardrop-shaped bottles of good eco-friendly soaps and cleaners found at stores like Target and Whole Foods).  You’re likely most familiar with Boo! – The Halloween Store that ‘pops up’ every fall.  Right – now I know you’re with me.  Pop-up stores are seemingly everywhere these days, and if retailers can enjoy success with these temporary locations, why not B2B-focused organizations?

The beauty of a pop-up office is the ability for a growing company to take full advantage of high-visibility retail space, making a high-impact presentation and increasing exposure to prospective customers in a particular market. Think of it as your booth at a 90-day-long trade show.

Last November, BusinessWeek did a story on pop-up stores and interviewed Erik Joule, Levi Strauss’ Sr. VP of Merchandising. “Success is exposure.” Erik said.  His Levi’s ‘workshop’ pop-up space in Manhattan reportedly draws 3,000 visitors each week.  Procter & Gamble apparently enjoyed similar success with their pop-up initiative, drawing some 14,000 visitors in just ten days!

Think about it: Let’s say your business is a Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) company, and you’re launching a software development and testing application focused on growing technology companies.  You’re based in, say, Dallas, but you desperately need exposure to – and presence in – Silicon Valley in order for your new product to succeed. You also know that University Avenue in Palo Alto or Castro Street in Mountain View, for example, are both hotbeds of Valley activity – with everyone from Googlers to Facebookers to VCs constantly rushing along these thoroughfares to coffee/lunch/dinner meetings.  These are the exact folks you need to reach, and ideally you’d like to have a company presence with proximity to one of these two areas.  Here’s how I’d go about this:

  1. Location. Find a small, high visibility vacant storefront on one of these streets and arrange for a temporary lease (with an option to extend if possible). With luck, I might be able to negotiate down to 50% of the market lease rate.  I might also consider reaching out to the local Chamber of Commerce, whose goal is to have zero vacant spaces in these busy areas and who might offer leverage during negotiations with the landlord.
  2. Strategy. I’ll work with a retail design professional to create my ‘storefront’ for maximum impact. (A local art college would be a good place to start, given they typically employ ‘working’ faculty.) Ideally, I’d want to have an open, inviting area for all passers-by, perhaps with large monitors looping mini-commercials of my new product.
  3. Move in. Gather one or two of my Dallas team, hop on a plane, and ‘move in’ to the new location. I might also consider bringing on a local sales rock-star with a solid track record of winning SaaS deals in the Valley to help with lead generation.
  4. Marketing. With the location and team in place, we’ll need lots of PR for the new pop-up shop. Enter social media: Facebook page. Press release. TechCrunch story.  Tweets galore.  I think you get the picture.
  5. Launch! Now to invite as many folks as we can find to our launch party (yes, with cocktails), barking on the street if I have to.  We’ll schedule and host regular interactive lunch-n-learn product demos, offering something a bit higher-end than pizza for lunch.  The door is always open, presenting a standing invitation for all puzzled-looking pedestrians to come on in.

Right now is a particularly good time to consider a pop-up office. Despite the recent corner-turning of the economy, most cities’ central business districts still have plenty of empty storefronts and ground-level offices. Aside from taking long walks through central business districts of prospective cities (which you should do), there are several online resources available to help find available retail spaces for lease; a couple that immediately come to mind are Rofo and Pop Up Insider.

Imagine your delight in giving directions to a prospect: “We’ve taken over the old Kenneth Cole location – you know, at the corner of Fifth and Main?” Oooh…was that a light bulb I just saw illuminating above your head?

ROI for Business Intelligence

by Matthew Carmen on January 3, 2011

When beginning or continuing an investment in a Business Intelligence (BI) system, a company must look at how it will be able to garner the largest Return on Investment (ROI) for such an initiative.  There are many factors to take into consideration in reaching the largest possible ROI.  These factors can be grouped into direct and indirect benefits:

Direct Benefits

  1. Quantifiable cost savings related the more efficient access to data.  This allows analysts to spend time analyzing and not gathering information.
  2. Automation of process, leading to real time savings and greater productivity.
  3. Shorter budgeting and financial planning cycles with reduced effort, allowing staff to continue doing their jobs.
  4. Improved efficiencies in operational groups such as inventory management, IT, facilities management, etc.
  5. Reducing support costs associated with reporting while terminating legacy reports and systems that go unused.

Indirect Benefits

  1. A single version of the “truth”, official company records and reports, leading to less rework and manipulation of data by individuals to justify differing views of what that data means to their groups.
  2. Facilitates containment of costs based on targeted areas as opposed to just saying every group’ cuts costs by 20%, as an example.
  3. Allows for the ability to run “what-if” analyses, the results of which often lead to better decision making.
  4. Improved customer service, resulting in increased sales.
  5. Allows for the long-term alignment of operations and strategy.

There are many other direct and indirect efficiencies and benefits that can be realized through the proper planning and implementation of BI tools and systems.  The more end-user groups that participate in the planning of a company’s BI system, the easier it becomes to change the ultimate corporate culture. Once the buy-in from the users is attained, the real savings begin, and a platform to accelerate corporate growth now exists.

Reaching Corporate goals using Business Intelligence

by Matthew Carmen on December 20, 2010

Most companies have a mission.  This mission, many times, is some morally high statement that the company will, say, help all the people of the world live in harmony.  While this is a noble gesture, is it realistic?  Unless you’re the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, probably not.  What a company really needs is an actionable strategy that leads it to meeting and/or exceeding business goals: those of higher revenues, margins and market shares, amongst many others.  A company can still be benevolent, like Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream for example, who give a portion of their profits to charity.  This is a fantastic thing they do, but their shareholders want value for their investment as well.

What is more important is the corporate strategy that allows a going concern to reach its goals.  The main problem with any strategy is that the people who make it happen very rarely know what it is.  The “workers”, which make up probably 80 percent of employees only know that the company making money is good, and that losing money is bad (and this is probably all they really care about too).  These “workers” however, are the operational portion of the company.  Since the operational portion of the company has little or no knowledge of the company’s strategy, and probably cares about it just as much, how does a company’s leadership align its operations so as to reach its corporate goals?  Many tools are needed, including leadership, management of human and financial capital, logistics, etc.  All of these tools are fed by information and the better the information, the more intelligent the tool’s results. Business Intelligence (BI) is key to successfully aligning corporate operations with its strategy in order to achieve its goals and mission.

What exactly is BI?

Ask 5 people, you will probably get 6 answers.  Wikipedia defines BI as: “computer-based techniques used in spotting, digging-out, and analyzing business data, such as sales revenue by products and/or departments, or by associated costs and incomes.”  I guess this is one way to explain it.  My view:  BI is the use of technology to intelligently analyze raw data which is collected from each operational group.  This analysis is performed in many ways;  reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data mining, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining, and predictive analytics are just some of the many techniques used.  Once all of the raw data is mined, processed, and analyzed, it becomes usable information that can be reported on, ‘dashboarded’ and presented.

This information often reflects a company’s competitive intelligence or advantage in the marketplace, and one way in which a company can differentiate itself from is competitors.  For example, Netflix and Harrah’s Entertainment are two companies that have benefit from BI initiatives.  These two companies collected raw data and utilized BI tools to analyze that data, ultimately resulting in advantage gains against their competitors – they were able to lead their industries in profit margin, sales and customer service, according to the book, Competing on Analytics by Davenport and Harris.  By efficiently analyzing sales data through the use of BI, a company can make sure that stores in different geographical areas keep the right products on the shelves.  One example of this is Kroger:  they were able to keep the right varieties and quantities of soup in colder weather stores.  Some of BI is basic common sense that is taken to the next level, this is the starting point.  Experts in BI need to take a company to the next level and beyond.

The keys to a successful BI implementation include:

  1. Realizing that your company does not use the data it has to make decisions and wanting to change the dynamic.
  2. Bring in experts where helpful (for example, Stixis and their BI Center of Excellence) to ask the right questions and properly architect and launch BI initiative.
  3. Make sure employees and management participate in the development of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), designing dashboards, and providing input to the system designers.
  4. A company must decide on BI deployment, maintenance, and continuous improvement.  By doing these things, a company will be able to gain a competitive advantage over competitors and lead its industry.

The key to successful implementation and usage of a company’s new or expanded BI environment is complete buy-in from all employees and communicating corporate mission, strategy and operational need.  Through this effective communication with the workforce, employees will become contributors of the new corporate culture and help move the company forward.

Data Backup: Ignore at your own Peril

by Marc Watley on December 6, 2010

About a year ago, I was the unfortunate victim of a robbery.  At gunpoint.  Right…no fun at all.  Anyhow, in addition to my wallet, the idiot-with-gun also got my laptop. In an instant, I’d acutely learned the importance of backing up one’s data.

Now truth be told, it could have been much worse insofar as losing laptop data. I’ve used a BlackBerry for years, and so what I’d argue was the most important data on my laptop – contacts, notes (to this day I take all meeting notes via BlackBerry), email, and calendar – was still intact locally on my BlackBerry (which I thankfully kept) and also remotely on my corporate Exchange server.  What was lost however, were scores of other notes, business plans, presentation decks, whitepaper drafts, spreadsheet exercises, some music (sigh) – gone forever in the flash of a second.  I will say that I have benefited from the misfortune – I’ve since used an online backup service – Dropbox – to ensure safe, recoverable storage of everything on my laptop. (This has been a life saver and a service which I can’t recommend enough.)  Also, it was a good excuse to finally make the switch from PC to Mac.  Happiness.

Anyhow, two Captain Obvious lessons learned from this experience:

  1. Backup is CRITICAL
  2. Anything can happen at any time

These axioms ring even truer for businesses – of all types and sizes – who are increasingly more connected to their customers and suppliers through a plethora of systems and applications. Whether your shop is a five-location dentist practice or a multibillion-dollar technology firm, efficient backup (along with a well-planned recovery strategy) is absolutely key to staying in business.  If you’re reading this thinking, ‘yeah but nothing will happen to me/my business’, I gently refer you to my opening paragraph and also to #2 above.  Several options exist – for personal use, Small/Medium Businesses, and enterprise alike.

A few suggestions:

  • Dropbox.  Services such as Dropbox are highly recommended for personal files (good if you need to occasionally share files with others as well).  Simple to use (auto-synchronizes your files between local and online) and runs $9.99 per month (or $99 per year) for 50GB of storage space.  Learn more at http://www.dropbox.com/features.
  • Servosity. Servosity provides an agentless, on-demand backup solution suited particularly well for SMB and mid-market enterprise shops. Tape libraries are still in widespread use within datacenters today, and Servosity  provides an efficient alternative to this.  Data is compressed and encrypted before being mirrored to Servosity’s Data Vault.  Backups can be managed by OS or application, scheduled, and restored (downloaded) via secure web browser.  (Disclosure: The company I work for, Datacenter Trust, currently includes Servosity in their services portfolio.)  Learn more at http://www.servosity.com.
  • nScaled.  For enterprise shops, nScaled provides a unique approach to backup and recovery: continuous on-premise data protection, offsite backup, and remote failover. Data is continually stored both within your datacenter as well as at a remote highly-available facility.  Using a secure web interface, data can be recovered and restored either on-premise or from the remote location within 15 minutes or less.  Supported server platforms include Windows, Linux, and IBM AIX.  (Disclosure: The company I work for, Datacenter Trust, currently includes nScaled in their services portfolio.)  Learn more at http://www.nscaled.com.

Other solutions to check out include Carbonite, CommVault’s Simpana, and the recently-launched Whitewater appliance by Riverbed Technology. Whether your need is personal or business, there are many options available for synchronizing, retaining, and restoring your data. This is a must-do, as continuous access to personal and work data becomes increasingly important.  As Foghorn Leghorn would say, pay attention when I’m talkin’ to ya!  Don’t let some nutball with a gun or, say, mother nature with an earthquake, teach you a lesson the hard way about keeping ALL of your data continuously backed up and quickly recoverable!

Project Accounting – Do you really need it?

by Matthew Carmen on November 22, 2010

Let’s save answering the question posed in the title, for later on… lets first address a more fundamental question – What exactly is project accounting?

Project accounting is the act of tracking total costs of a project, from concept through implementation. This means all of the expenses, labor and capital expenditures related to completing any operational or strategic project. This project tracking can be done in tandem with the corporate accounting department (usually the case in large companies) or separately (as with small and midsized companies, when these companies actually perform project accounting). Depending on the size of the projects that a corporation is undertaking, the complexities of project accounting grow.

As the complexities of project accounting grow, technology plays a greater role. The business may be able to get away with Excel spreadsheet models – at least in the early stages of proving its concepts. This can continue to be useful for small companies that have small straight forward projects that are usually expense related. Once the use of internal labor, software development, and capital expenditures come into the mix, additional resources should be considered – irrespective of the size of the company – in order to reach conclusions successfully.

These added features include:

  1. Project accounting software – There are many packages on the market, from inexpensive versions that allow a small company to track their costs, to large modules that plug into a company’s SAP, Oracle, or other enterprise-class financial system. The larger and more expensive the software package, the more time and energy it will take to integrate into the company’s technology environment.
  2. Legal expertise – As a company’s projects become more intricate and complex, the project accounting office will need to understand things such as tax implications, capitalization of assets and labor, etc. The company’s legal and corporate finance teams will need to get involved.
  3. Information Technology – In most cases, new servers will need to be leased or purchased, power usage in the company’s datacenter will need to be reviewed (either with owned or outsourced datacenters). The datacenter strategy itself may need to be reviewed (depending on the size of the project, A large project may not fit into the company’s current datacenter), as well as any related labor costs going forward.
  4. Financial – The actions in this area of the company include the creation of a business case, business intelligence initiatives, the ability report on the successes of the project, activity based costing, budgeting, etc.
  5. Regulatory – depending on a company’s business, there may be regulatory issues that make project accounting necessary. Some regulatory programs may be tax deductable, while others just have to be done. Tracking regulatory projects is necessary to show that these are one-time costs associated with doing business.

Once a company has implemented the project accounting system that works best for its size and needs, something amazing things starts to happen, information that can be acted upon to make operational and strategic decisions is created. For example: In large scale projects – those that take place over years and have multiple layers of complexity – costs can be looked at by repeatable activity (i.e. labor during a certain stage of the project that happens at different locations) and ways in which these costs can be minimized become apparent. Business intelligence is then created to illustrate that having the right labor in the right place will minimize costs and keep the project on or below budget.

Conclusion

The time has come to finally address the question in the title! Project accounting, whether implemented on a small or large scale, can provide great value to more efficient management of the business. In these challenging economic times, managing a business at the highest level of efficiency is more important than ever. Reporting on and containing costs is a priority and should be pursued with great care and scrutiny. Not only do you need to have solid Project Accounting in your organization, your organization’s long-term success DEPENDS on it!

Cloud: A truly nebulous term

by Marc Watley on October 29, 2010

Yes, yes I know…ol’ Marc has subjected you to yet another bad pun. You’ve got to admit though that it fits the bill here. The term “cloud” is, in my book, one of the most over-used technology terms in recent memory, and it’s high time for change.

(Ridiculous sidebar: Anyone else watch Science Bob conjure that “cloud” on Jimmy Kimmel Live the other night? Hilarious!)

The thing is, almost all of what we use on the web today exists ‘in the cloud’ at some level or another. Think about it – your mail isn’t fed from a server sitting in your basement is it? No, it’s typically one of a cluster of mail servers in the “cloud” – perhaps located within your company’s datacenter or provided by Yahoo!, Hotmail, Gmail, or the like.  What about shopping? Our profiles, containing our shipping addresses, purchase preferences, and credit card numbers, likewise exist in the “cloud”.  The social utilities we’ve come to depend on for business and fun – LinkedIn, Facebook, Salesforce, Twitter, Foursquare, etcetera, are also services used almost entirely in the “cloud”.  The technology that powers the various “cloud” solutions continues to advance rapidly.  This, along with increased availability and reduced costs worldwide for high-speed Internet access, has allowed the service offerings to evolve as well.

The fact that both individuals and growing businesses can tailor solutions from the breadth of available “cloud” services is fantastic.  The issue at hand is the term “cloud” itself: an umbrella term most often used to describe and present ‘hosted’ or remote services – services which have expanded rapidly during the last two years. The term “cloud” has simply reached a point of causing confusion.  For example, though commonly referred to as “cloud computing”, it’s not always actually computing, is it?  We can now select from solutions allowing us to compute, store/archive/recover data, manage content, send/receive mail, place calls, conference, and network with colleagues, friends, and prospects – all with a moniker of “cloud” attached. “Cloud” is descriptive in this sense, sure, but only mildly so. My $0.02 is that the term “on demand infrastructure” – or simply “on-demand”- is more reflective of available solutions and less confusing than the term “cloud”.  Adopting the “on demand” term virtually eliminates the need for wonder, fretting, or quarrel over the best flavor of the solution – public/multi-tenant (Amazon EC2), private (your own VMware or Terremark Enterprise Cloud instance), Platform (Salesforce), or hybrid form. Whatever the end solution, simply think of it as on-demand infrastructure; the level of access, control, and security needed upon deployment are completely up to – and configurable by – the user.

I’ve noticed in the past several months that several technology companies including Oracle, F5, Servosity, and Rackspace have begun to use “on demand” (seemingly in place of “cloud”) to describe their services, features, and benefits. I think it’s a smart move, but who knows where this will end up; the term “on demand” might work best for everyone. Might not.

Anyhow, Cloud: you’ve served us pretty well…thanks. Now it’s time to bid adieu and bon voyage.  Oh, and when you reach wherever it is that you Internet buzzwords fade away to, please do say hello to our old friend “Web 2.0”, will you?

Developing your financial management talent

by Brian Superczynski on October 11, 2010

Over the course of my career I’ve read numerous books and have attended seminars and classes on developing talent and leadership skills.  These classes have ranged from developing one’s own personal “brand”, to conducting performance reviews and even how to become a “thought leader.”  I’m sure during the course of your career you’ve also had similar experiences.

Now from what I’ve gathered from all of this training is that each of us has unique skills based upon our backgrounds and chosen professions.  In a light-hearted tone I like to refer to these unique skills as special needs.  I’ve also learned that if you don’t think you have special needs, you do – it’s just that you don’t know it yet.  In looking back at my experiences as an IT analyst, leader and mentor to other analysts, there is definitely a unique set of skills that facilitates adding value to financial support within IT organizations.

Finding an individual to perform routine financial tasks and create nice-looking Excel spreadsheets is easy.  Identifying an individual who can provide value-added input to your IT management team is a different ball game.   There are not many universities and even companies who train individuals how to apply their financial skills to IT operational financial management.  Therefore it is incumbent upon IT organizations not only to identify quality financial management talent but to provide training on IT-focused financial management strategy and practices.

I’ve always believed that IT financial management is a smart and rewarding choice for young finance professionals beginning their careers.  For starters, they are usually assigned to executive IT teams to provide financial and administrative support.  As such, they quickly gain invaluable experiences on leadership dynamics and how decisions are made.  I recall early in my career being the lead financial analyst on an executive IT leadership team at a Fortune 50 organization.  We hired a new executive who had just retired with the rank of colonel from the U.S. Marines.  The executive vice president called me into his office and introduced me to this new leader and proceeded to tell him that I would review his budget, his key initiatives, and also provide him with insight into his new team.  Now I was a full 25 years younger than this newly-retired colonel and he had this perplexed look on his face while I was reviewing his budget and organization.  After a while, the colonel looked up and said, “I get it – you’re the bosses S-L-J-O” (pronounced: Slow-Joe).  Puzzled, I inquired what a SLJO was.   I quickly learned that my corresponding position in the armed forces was fondly referred to as the “Stinky Little Job Officer”.  Actually, another word was used instead of “Stinky” but I’ll leave that to your imagination.   Now my point is that at a relatively young stage of my career I was given the invaluable opportunity to participate and be a key member of an IT leadership team, albeit in a “junior” but important and strategic capacity.  Not only did it allow me to utilize my financial skill sets, but it also allowed me to adapt those skills in a new capacity while learning what I found to be the interesting world of running a large Information Technology organization.  I found being accepted as a full-fledged member of the IT organization that I supported the single best training that I could have received early in my career.

On the flip side of my own personal experience, I’ve seen many IT organizations look to their financial support as overhead that is required only to provide corporate financial planning, with little more than budgets, monthly accruals, and variance reports.  In these instances, the relationship is typically somewhat contentious and the individual providing financial support is often unable to articulate the IT drivers in their analysis and they become little more than accountants and end up moving to another job fairly quickly.

By now you’re probably wondering if you need to develop an entirely separate training program for the group or individual providing your IT organization with financial support.  Might be surprising, but the answer is no.  As part of your team, they should be required to participate in your IT training programs.  Now, I’m not talking about your financial analyst becoming certified as a Cisco CCIE or a Microsoft Windows administrator.  I’m referring to having your financial support attend and participate in IT service delivery and project management programs.  Two that come to mind – which I strongly recommend – are

Of course, there are other programs such as Six Sigma that are also relevant and would be a good choice if your organization is adopting these or similar management methodologies.  All of these offerings and others are relevant to financial professionals and teach invaluable skills on translating IT terminology into financial and business relevant terms.

In addition, don’t overlook your company specific certification or training programs.  For example, at one organization all employees and contractors are required to attend a half day class before conducting any type of work in the datacenter.  The purpose of the class is to educate the individual(s) on why the datacenter is mission critical to delivering services and providing an appreciation for all the processes in place to ensure a high availability and error-free environment.  It was amazing how the one half day of training gave non-IT professionals an appreciation for the IT organization as a whole.  However, as a partner in a firm called Datacenter Trust, I must clarify that I don’t condone people frequently walking through your datacenter for training and tours.  At the same time, it’s always a kick seeing those datacenter engineers who don’t get out much impressing people with what they manage.  You know who you are…

These may appear to be obvious suggestions on developing your IT financial management talent, but more times than not I’ve seen the finance support organization recognized as a separate unique function.  The key word to remember regarding developing an effective partnership with your financial resource support is ‘inclusion’.   When developing your meeting agenda’s, identify a regular time to review the financial results compared to budget and forecast and any business cases or ad-hoc projects.  As appropriate, your financial support should attend as much of these meetings as possible to gain an understanding of the operational aspects of the organization.  Finally, elevate your IT financial support even further from the effective resource – or “SLJO” stage to a true technology and financial knowledge partner by having them actively participate in your IT-specific training programs.

Doing what is Right Vs. Being the Best

by Brian Beedle on September 27, 2010

Defined by Webster’s Dictionary, the word “Best”:

of the highest quality, excellence, or standing: the best work; the best students”.

Every day in business, we are faced with challenges that require us to act quickly and to react even quicker.  As leaders we are expected to make pivotal decisions; we are exposed to different types of challenges, and are expected to accurately address problems each and every day. These challenges we are faced with often take us outside of our comfort zone, and require us to take on responsibilities and make decisions that we sometimes feel go beyond our areas of expertise.

As a manager, I always strive to do things right and deliver a high quality product to my customer, whether internal or external.  But is “doing things right” necessarily enough? Or should management go beyond “doing things right” and strive for ONLY being the best at what you do?

Coincidentally, I had a conversation with my son today who recently began his freshman year at college in August. We discussed the challenges that he is currently facing in college and how the effort that he is putting forth today, lays the groundwork for later success in college, and the successes that he will encounter as he lives the life he chooses as an adult. It was very obvious to me that he was frustrated with the conversation, but later in the evening, it was even clearer that he agreed with me and understood my point.  A BREAKTHROUGH!

The following are some points to keep in mind:

  • As a parent, it is important to instill values in your children during their formative years.  Teaching your children that “doing the right thing” is not only important but necessary. Being aware that one is doing the right thing will ultimately pave the path for a productive, ethical and value based lifestyle.
  • As a student, it is important to identify one’s successes and identify the challenges that exist. The level of competition today for graduates of Generation Y is far greater than those of Generation X.  Being able to assert yourself and have the ability to identify the fine line between doing the right thing and knowing what it takes to become the best at what you do, is critical. Developing this skill set early will yield significant advantages, and make the transition into the workforce, and ultimately becoming a successful manager far easier. Providing young people today with the tools to be able to understand what it is to exceed beyond “doing the right thing” is necessary.  Students must subscribe to the teachings of the leaders within our colleges and communities, and identify mentors to coach Gen Y in developing the skills to become the best at what they do.
  • As a manager, it is important to continue to learn and develop one’s skills. As technology and business changes, it is necessary to maintain the competitive advantage and remain current on today’s business needs. Many top companies enlist the practices of Six-Sigma and ITIL as part of the company’s culture. Enlisting a quality program will assist in removing the effects of errors and to minimize the inconsistency in business processes.  A Six-Sigma program is a huge commitment for a company and not only requires major changes to business processes; it requires a change in culture.  If a company is not prepared to set forth on the Six-Sigma adventure, it is possible for companies to employ certain aspects of Six-Sigma into their business to improve business processes.

In today’s economic environment, it may be more of a common place than not for companies to cut corners in order to save a nickel or dime, yielding a lack of quality.  Now is the time for businesses to focus on quality and set the standard for providing the best possible product or service possible.  Businesses must continue to redefine and work to establish themselves as the business segment leader, as well as the leader in quality and value, when a favorable economy returns.

Week In Review – Aug 29 – Sep 4, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on September 5, 2010

The Tale of two budgets

by Brian Superczynski, Aug 30, 2010

Creating and presenting the annual IT budget is a real challenge that can sometimes be compared to a dark Charles Dickens novel. How the budget is presented is the key to bypassing the “worst of times” but IT and finance organizations are not known for their marketing or communication skills; it’s just not in the DNA of either group. The solution is providing clarity and transparency, translating the ongoing costs of previously approved investments and providing options. more…

Character and Personality #9: Negotiator

by Gary Monti, Aug 31, 2010

It is a challenge to create a common bond between different people wanting different things. Some want to work on a bleeding-edge project, others want money, still others want as much personal time as possible, etc. Humility, courage and competency are “must-haves” for leaders to successfully negotiate between the desires of key stakeholders. more…

Social Media and Tribes #10: Facebook and low self-esteem?

by Deepika Bajaj, Sep 1, 2010

Any new technology has its detractors and naysayers. When it comes to social media, there is more than a fair share of them. But don’t let them determine your practices. Using Facebook effectively benefits you and your community and it is not a sign of low self-esteem. more…

Flexible Focus #17: Determine your destiny

by William Reed, Sep 2, 2010

The biggest thing that stands between you and your destiny is not something outside of you, but the fear, uncertainty and doubt in your own mind which saps your energy. Energy is the great multiplier, and the real measure of your strength. In this article, William has listed some practices to increase your energy level, which will enable you determine you destiny. more…

A simple strategy for a good life

by Vijay Peduru, Sep 3, 2010

Our life is completely governed by the stories we deeply believe in. Most of the times we never know that these stories dictate our life i.e. they are hidden to us like a blind spot while driving. If we try to change our behaviors without understanding them (the root cause), we will not be successful. So, how do we recognize our stories? more…

The Tale of two budgets

by Brian Superczynski on August 30, 2010

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of ever-cooler technology. It was the age of ever-increasing spending on IT infrastructure.  It was that time of the year – the season to present our annual IT budget, with company leadership insisting on it being received, for good or evil.

After completing my fair share of budgets over the past several years, I admit there have been more than a handful of times where the budgeting process was comparable to a dark Charles Dickens novel.  The budget would be “packaged” and presented for executive approval as expected, but only after months of planning, reviewing, justifying, and negotiating savings opportunities.

How the IT budget is presented is the key to bypassing those “worst of times” and being able to confidently steer your organization to the best of times.  This may sound relatively straightforward but let’s face it – IT and finance organizations are not known for their marketing or communication skills; it’s just not in the DNA of either group.  So then, how do you take your technology budget, containing a multitude of services, from network to datacenter operations and from it, develop a sound IT operations plan and budget which the business understands?

It’s the tale of two budgets……

The solution is providing clarity and transparency, translating the ongoing costs of previously approved investments and providing options.  Focusing on these three areas will result in the view that your IT organization is a high-performing business partner and not just another allocation to the business for which there is little or no control.

First, focus on explaining your budget in a manner which does not require an IT decoder ring for the non-technical folks.  One of the qualities that I consistently see in high-performing IT executives is the ability to translate technology and corresponding costs into the business drivers of your organization.  Keep your presentation in tune with the corporate strategy and growth drivers. The easiest way to break your costs down and translate into business drivers is to identify the product portfolios you support.  For example, if you’re a pharmacy operator, identify how much of your IT infrastructure is required to support  traditional brick and mortar pharmacy services versus online pharmacy services.  Furthermore, if on-line pharmacy services is experiencing rapid growth and has become the cash cow be sure to explain the impact on the information technology cost structure. Next, translate how online services, supported by IT have improved the customer experience (and possibly lowered transaction costs).  The success of your presentation will be measured not just by gaining budget approval, but on your ability to provide transparency into your cost drivers.  If you’re really on top of your game, you can even show how segments of your IT shop (like online pharmacy services) are actually profit centers.

Second, you can further enhance your reputation as a trusted business partner by identifying the ongoing impact of approved investments that reside in your budget.  These investments are likely projects that were approved and implemented in prior years and now are part of the infrastructure, which require ongoing support and maintenance.  Having a previously-established governance process is necessary in order for this conversation to be effective in your presentation.  I once worked with a CIO who consistently reminded his organization there was no such activity that was referred to as an “IT Project.”  All projects within the IT organization either supported, enhanced, or created new services which were understood by the business partner – and the investment had previously been approved jointly with the business.  The governance committee responsible for establishing these processes should be made up of members from the executive committee who will ultimately approve your budget, so that they can be familiar, knowledgeable, and even involved in the investment as they are made.  Likewise, many of these investments are predicated upon creating savings in your infrastructure or elsewhere in the organization.  Therefore, be sure to not only identify the impact of ongoing costs but also identify where the savings or enhanced revenue have been realized in the organization.

Finally, identify the investment opportunities in your infrastructure and present them as ‘levers’ that the executive committee can ‘pull’ when they look for reduction opportunities in your budget.  These levers can range from outsourcing portions of your infrastructure, to investing in new technologies that will result in performance improvements or efficiency gains in the future.  In fact, outsourcing is typically an easy sell when it addresses an area of your organization that is not a core system or competency.  As an example, many IT organizations have become responsible for managing the telecommunications infrastructure and related invoices for the entire organization.  This can be a labor-intensive process which often requires specialized knowledge of telecom billing.  Many outsource companies today can provide services to automate the paying and auditing of your telecom invoices – and even make the carriers’ job of servicing your account much easier.  This is a prime example of a lever you want to present to an oversight or executive committee because although it makes fiscal sense, you also want to obtain mutual agreement that it will also result in tough decisions with respect to staff reductions. Presenting options such as this will prove that your IT shop is not only looking to be a partner to the business, but also stepping up as a leader in reducing cost and improving services and performance.

In talking with a number of colleges, this is the time of year many IT organizations begin to work through their annual IT budgets.  Presenting transparency, impact of prior investment through governance, and providing cost-saving options are the keys to providing sound fiscal leadership and to developing a reputation as a trusted partner to the business.  As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the only potential “evil” side effect of following this outline – now that you are an expert – is that you may get cajoled into assisting the marketing department with its annual budget planning.    As sometimes the case, no good deed goes unpunished.